Wednesday, January 1, 2014

and in love takes delight in him

Ulysses and eulogies Gainsborough, Gainsbourg, Socrates 
All mean no light, everything 
Oh, the joy of nothing is a sweeter something 
And I will hold it in my heart 
I will hold it in my heart. 
--Foy Vance

One of my perpetual fears is repeating stories, since everyone knows that there's no person more boorish than the man who tells the same tale over and over again.
Tell me once, shame on me. Tell me twice, shame on you. 
(Or something like that.)
We've turned "Stop me if you've heard this one," into a pompous cliché, but I often use it, in complete and utter earnestness, in pleading voice with overtones of desperation: Stop me, please please please, I am begging you, stop me by any means deemed necessary at once--instantly, pronto, statim--if this story begins to sound even remotely familiar.
For I must honor my private vow never to become that boor who is constantly regaling the other person with the exact same, obviously endlessly amusing story because it stars yours truly.
So, stop me if you've heard this one.

But I usually don't mind listening to other people repeat stories, because usually a human being will never repeat a story in the exact same way.
They will always leave out a detail, that something in your current conversation will reawaken in their memory. They'll remember an undertone in a storyline, something inside of them will jostle loose and spill out of their mouth, revealing a new pattern inside the heart of a human being,
revealing a new surprise inside of a friend, revealing a new piece of the eternal mystery that is another human being. 
Just like a song, repetition is often what reveals the something deeper inside a human being.
You could just listen to their melody and lyrics; or you could let the repetition begin to faintly underscore the core of their being.
Even though the stories are always repeated, they are never quite the same.
Although, like the ocean, nothing seems to have changed, they move, like tides, many times a day, the changing currents stirring up interesting and previously unseen things hidden in the depths.

Part of my lesson in learning to love repetition was taught to me by all the professors who taught in class. 
They were all repeat offenders of the repeating stories misdemeanor.
But, then I thought of all those ancients Athenians gathered around Sophocles, and I thought: 
Wait. Isn't this what learning is?
Isn't learning the joy and privilege of listening to the stories of men and women who have lived a sight longer than you and have one or two things to say about everything, and a thousand things to say about one thing?
Maybe we learn what fighting truly means, when we hear the story (for the umpteenth time) of the documentary our mentor made, that toppled a corrupt government.
Maybe we can only learn what Mozart was trying to say in his Requiem Mass on not our first or tenth or twentieth listen, but on our fiftieth.
Maybe we learn what romance is by hearing the story of how our parents met, repeated throughout the years, with various details being revealed at the age appropriate-times. 
(It turns out that at that fateful party when boy-met-girl, the drinks--that had remained mysteriously and ambiguous appellated 'drinks'--that Dad was serving weren't apple juice, Hawaiian Punch, or ginger beer, but schnapps. Parents get more interesting the older you get.)
Maybe we learn what "fresh starts" mean after many years of falling down and getting up again.

There is something so cyclical about a year, which I, in my my overweening love of déjà vu and anniversaries can never stop myself from going into raptures about (even if my audience has heard this one before). 
I catch myself comparing and commemorating the present year to years past, and oohing and ahhing over the incredibly similar rhythm of events that always comes to pass; and laughing as I realize: why, I've done all this before
Yet each story, of love and loss, of frustration and patience, of desire and impatience, of friendship and delight that fills each month of the year is a new story, a new variation on the ancient and beloved repetition.

Love is one of those stories that is always being repeated, but never gets old.

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